the comfort of why

To The Graduating Class of 2013

My remarks to the Sentinel Secondary School graduating class of 2013.  Another version of this presentation was delivered to the Rockridge graduating class on May 17, 2013.  This is a full transcript of my words and as is typical with verbal presentations, adjustments and/or changes may have been made while speaking.

Thank you. Merci. 

I’m so pleased to be here tonight.  Je suis très heureuse d’être ici avec vous ce soir.

On behalf of the West Van Board of Education, my congratulations to all this year’s graduates.  Félicitations! 

I know many of you are wondering who is this talking head and why does she get to speak at my grad?

Well, in the November 2011 municipal elections I and four others were elected by West Van residents to serve as Trustees on the Board of Education.

That means my colleagues and I help to oversee the public education system in our community and that along with your teachers, the staff at the school and the district, parents and yourselves, we have a measure of responsibility and accountability for your education from kindergarten through to Grade 12.

I also happen to be a graduate of school district 45.  

Lions Gate Bridge

Even though I’ve been around the District on and off since I was twelve, and even though I’ve been to Sentinel a number of times, I wanted to get a better feel for the school and its students before I spoke tonight.

I phoned up Principal Mike Finch and asked if we could tour the school together.  And we did.  I got to see some of you at work and some of you at play.  I had a look into many of the classrooms and then I asked Mr. Finch to tell me about you, to tell me about students at Sentinel.

I’m just gonna give you a moment to think about what he told me.  

No, he didn’t say that.  Oh, he’d never say that, would he?  No way. Uhuh.  

What he did tell me is how impressed he has been by the students at Sentinel.  How dedicated you are and how motivated you are to succeed on your own terms whether you’re studying French, pursuing your athletic interests in the academies, or being super achievers.

Barb Sunday, one of your amazing art leaders told me during my visit to the school, that she’d sent off about 50 advanced placement art portfolios for consideration.  50!  And if you stop by the Ferry Building Gallery at the foot of 14th Street, you’ll see some of that art on display.  

What you’ll also see there is the commitment you’ve made to pursuing your passions and the care you’ve taken to excel in the work you do.

And tonight we’re here to celebrate your accomplishments.

For parents, it’s a bittersweet moment, likely tinged with a sense of relief!  Tonight is a chance to celebrate the wonderful individuals you’ve become and yet we also have to be prepared to let you go.

That’s what parents do.  

And like parents, the teachers, the administration, and all the staff of the West Van school district – even Trustees, we all have to do our best to make sure you grads have the skills and talents you need to continue to succeed.  And now you’re moving on.  

But it’s not easy as parents or teachers or administrators to let you go because we know that the journey can sometimes be a challenge.

I would like to share with you some words by the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran. In his poem on children, he writes:

 Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

As Gibran says, you, our graduates, you live in tomorrow and we are not here to stand in your way.

You’ve worked hard or maybe you haven’t.  You’ve had good days and bad.  You’ve made friends, you’ve lost friends.  You’ve studied, you’ve learned.  You’ve been on a journey and now you’re set for the next stage of life whatever that may be for you.

And what do you need to successfully navigate what’s ahead?

To borrow the words of Canadian musicians David Myles and Classified, you need to embrace your inner ninja.

Be fierce and determined and passionate.  Dream big and take action.

Stand up for yourself.  More importantly, stand up for others.

Stand up for what you believe.  More importantly, be tolerant and allow others to speak up for what they believe.

Stand up for what is right.  More importantly, be open to different views and adjust your ideas if warranted.

And finally, Sentinel grads, take all that we — the community, the school District, the administration, your teachers, and your parents — take all that we have given you, take all that you are, and make the world you are inheriting, make it better.  

Make the world better for you, for me, and for those who have so much less than either of us.

I know you can do it.  I know you can do it.  

Thank you and bonne chance!

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